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XOR Linked List - A Memory Efficient Doubly Linked List


In the world of data structures and algorithms, linked lists are a fundamental concept. They are widely used to implement dynamic data structures and are an essential part of many programming languages and libraries. Among the various types of linked lists, the XOR Linked List stands out as a unique and memory-efficient alternative to the traditional doubly linked list.

Understanding Linked Lists:

Before diving into the XOR Linked List, let's briefly review what a linked list is and how it works. A linked list is a data structure consisting of a sequence of elements, each of which contains a reference (or link) to the next element in the sequence. These elements are typically called nodes, and they are composed of two parts: a data component and a reference (or pointer) to the next node in the list.

What is a Doubly Linked List?

Before we dive into XOR linked lists, let's first review the basics of a doubly linked list. A doubly linked list is a linear data structure that consists of nodes, each of which contains two pointers: one pointing to the next node in the list (often referred to as the "next" pointer) and another pointing to the previous node (often referred to as the "previous" pointer). This allows for both forward and backward traversal of the list, making it a powerful tool in various applications.

However, there is a drawback to traditional doubly linked lists: they consume more memory than singly linked lists. Each node requires storage for two pointers, one for the next node and one for the previous node, resulting in increased memory overhead.

The XOR Linked List Solution:

The XOR linked list, short for Exclusive OR linked list, offers an intriguing solution to the memory overhead problem encountered in traditional doubly linked lists. In an XOR linked list, instead of storing two separate pointers for the next and previous nodes, each node stores a single pointer that is the result of the XOR operation (usually bitwise XOR) between the addresses of the next and previous nodes. This single pointer allows us to navigate both forwards and backwards in the list.

Let's illustrate this with a simple example. Consider two nodes, A and B. In a traditional doubly linked list, node A would have two pointers: one pointing to node B (next) and another pointing to node B (previous). In an XOR linked list, node A would have a single pointer obtained by XORing the addresses of B and the previous node (let's call it C). This is represented as:

When you want to traverse the list from node A to node B, you would perform the XOR operation again to retrieve the next node:

Similarly, to traverse from B back to A, you would XOR B's pointer with C:

This clever use of XOR allows us to navigate the list without the need for two separate pointers per node, significantly reducing memory overhead.

The Anatomy of an XOR Linked List:

An XOR Linked List is composed of nodes, and each node contains two main components:

  • Data: The actual data or payload the node is storing.
  • XORed Pointer: A single pointer that combines the addresses of the next and previous nodes.



  • The Node class represents the individual nodes in the XOR Linked List. Each node contains an integer data value and a npxpointer, which is the result of XORing the addresses of the next and previous nodes. The constructor initializes a node with a given data value and sets thenpx pointer to
  • TheXORLinkedList class is responsible for managing the linked list. It has a head pointer to the first node in the list, initially set to
  • The insert method is used to insert a new node with a specified value into the list. It creates a new node, sets its npx pointer by XORing the current head pointer and nullptr, and then updates the npx of the existing head node if it exists, effectively linking the new node as the new head.
  • The display method is used to traverse and print the contents of the XOR Linked List. It starts from the head and uses XOR operations to move through the list, printing the data of each node as it goes.
  • In the main function, an instance of XORLinkedList called list is created. Four nodes with values 1, 2, 3, and 4 are inserted into the list using the insert method.
  • Finally, the program displays the contents of the XOR Linked List, which will output "XOR Linked List: 4 3 2 1" in this example.

Program Output:

XOR Linked List - A Memory Efficient Doubly Linked List

Operations on XOR Linked Lists:


Inserting a new node into an XOR Linked List is relatively simple. To insert a node between nodes A and B, you need to compute the XOR of the pointers in these two nodes: A XOR B. The result will be the XORed pointer for the new node. Update the XORed pointers of nodes A and B accordingly, and you have inserted the new node.


Deleting a node is also straightforward. Given a node X to be deleted, you can find its neighbors, say A and B, using their XORed pointers. Then, simply update the XORed pointers of A and B to exclude X, effectively removing it from the list.


Traversing an XOR Linked List requires maintaining a reference to the previous node. You start with the head node and iteratively XOR the pointers to find the next node. You keep updating the references as you move along the list, enabling both forward and backward traversal.

Advantages of XOR Linked List:

  • Memory Efficiency: The primary advantage of XOR Linked Lists is their reduced memory consumption. By storing two pointers in one, they use half the memory compared to a standard doubly linked list. This can be especially crucial in memory-constrained environments or when dealing with large data structures.
  • Simplicity: Despite their unconventional approach, XOR Linked Lists are conceptually straightforward. The XOR operation is simple to implement and can be done using standard bitwise operators. This simplicity makes the XOR Linked List an attractive option for developers.
  • Traversal Flexibility: XOR Linked Lists maintain the ability to traverse the list in both directions, just like doubly linked lists. This makes them suitable for situations where bidirectional traversal is required.

Limitations and Challenges:

While XOR Linked Lists offer several advantages, they also come with limitations and challenges:

  • Lack of Safety: Traditional linked lists provide some degree of safety because they explicitly store "prev" and "next" pointers. XOR Linked Lists, however, offer no such protection. If you make a mistake during traversal or manipulation, it can lead to memory corruption or segmentation faults.
  • Performance Overhead: The XOR operation can introduce some performance overhead, especially on architectures where XOR operations are relatively slower. In certain scenarios, this overhead may offset the memory savings.
  • Limited Use Cases: XOR Linked Lists are not always the best choice. They are most beneficial in memory-constrained environments or when memory optimization is a top priority. In other cases, the added complexity may not be justified.


The XOR Linked List, as described in "XOR Linked List - A Memory Efficient Doubly Linked List | Set 1," offers an intriguing approach to achieving memory efficiency in a doubly linked list structure. This innovative data structure stores the XOR combination of the addresses of the previous and next nodes, resulting in reduced memory overhead compared to traditional doubly linked lists.

One of the key advantages of the XOR Linked List is its memory efficiency. By XORing the addresses, it eliminates the need to store two separate pointers for both the previous and next nodes, reducing the memory footprint. This efficiency can be especially beneficial in constrained memory environments or when dealing with a large number of elements.

However, it's important to note that implementing and maintaining an XOR Linked List can be more complex than a conventional doubly linked list. Operations like insertion and deletion become intricate due to the XOR logic, and error-prone programming may lead to memory leaks or data corruption.

Therefore, while the XOR Linked List offers memory efficiency benefits, it should be used judiciously, and developers should be well-versed in its intricacies to avoid potential pitfalls.

In conclusion, the XOR Linked List is a fascinating concept that can significantly reduce memory overhead in doubly linked lists. It represents an elegant solution to optimize memory usage in specific scenarios but requires careful implementation and understanding of its unique features.

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